Software Developers Journey Podcast

#235 Jean-Philippe LeBlanc from truck driver to engineering organisations builder


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Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 0:00
Yeah, that was my wake up call that I needed. I was not I would say in hindsight not a great human being, but for like, as a family I had kids at this point where my wife was working way too hard. I was not being a great employee overall, when you look at the performance dimension, probably like, you know, c minus two D on pretty much on a lot of fronts, health wise and whatnot. Like, you know what, not the best. That was a great wake up call.

Tim Bourguignon 0:27
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building your own this episode 235 I received from people who don't believe His career spans over more than 20 years, and at least as many roles. He joins from Montreal in Canada, where he is the current Senior VP of Engineering at Circle CI, and his profile wouldn't be complete without me mentioning that he loves to eat a soup breakfast and Wendy's number six, is that the spicy chicken sandwich or chicken sandwich? Awesome job. Work up there God.

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 1:10
Hey, Tim, really nice to meet you. Or I can't even say Bozo pretend, but.

Tim Bourguignon 1:17
But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing all your tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. As you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story and look like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual, initial, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of you're different,

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 2:05
I would say when I was, I think 11 years old. So that would be 1987 where my parents were not technologists whatsoever. They have no idea about technology, they have a better max and a VHS. That's probably the extent they decide to buy a computer and put it to my bedroom. We had a lot of house rooms in the house but my bedroom was chosen to put the computer in. So came with the computer a baby a quick basic book. Number is a the old basic word go to line something exists all of that fun stuff where basically when I was in sixth grade, and Canada so at 12 years old, this is where I literally just copied from the book, all of the lines of basic go to recreate the game that was in the book, there was no copy paste, there was no online there was no anything you literally had to it was more or less just retyping from a book. That's the first time and the first thing I've ever quote unquote developed most of it, it's just copying from a book. But you would have errors you would basically mistyped something and so on. And that little gorilla throwing the banana over a wall was failed to execute and that is my early journey and my early memories. And again I my mom's still have no idea why she put that computer in my room when I was 11 years old.

Tim Bourguignon 3:28
Do you have siblings to to fight with because

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 3:30
my sister could care less? Clearly, my parents might might my dad could care less. My mom couldn't care less and my sister couldn't care less I had I never actually talked about anything about computer but lo and behold a computer arrived at IBM PS two arrived in my room as it were I think we bought first game was might in magic to stake in it barely had enough RAM to hold the game. It was I learned dos Of course you had to and then of course the glorious days of Windows 3.1 That happened plethora of diskettes and floppy disk gets inserted to do this thing and whatnot and then eventually though in thinking then we switch computer to a DX 266 megahertz remember those computers that had a turbo button? I had one of those bad boys was pretty cool. I thought it was pretty and then my mom one Christmas decides she bought me a stack of CD ROM that had a penguin on it. She thought it was a game that was Linux Slackware game Linux Slackware took me months and months to figure out how to install that. And of course I had to scrap whatever like DOS and Windows I had at that point. I didn't figure out dual boot disk. But basically Linux Slackware was my first foray into the Linux world and to figure out what is this world

Tim Bourguignon 4:52
wow your parents are really in the stumbling away for later years. 100%

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 4:57
I don't know if they caught on On some buzzwords somewhere something or just by mere coincidence, I stumbled into the world of Linux pretty early on in my in my days, and boot disk and lillo's and things like that. That's that's how I learned my first actual first real language with like, of course bash grip and all that stuff. But Perl was my my first actual language that I learned to develop with.

Tim Bourguignon 5:22
well beyond basic, I mean, quick basic, was the first one basic was

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 5:26
just like this is copy paste of things from a book after that I would get Perl was definitely the first thing I actually did really, like few years there was in my teens, this is this is where I started developing some stuff.

Tim Bourguignon 5:37
And I'm always amazed with the this older generation of of computers, that all came with, with a programming book, I want as a thought experiment, actually, what would if, if iPads nowadays came with a programming book as well and an ID, and that was one of the intended usage of of the device, what effect it will have on the world, that's, it would be

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 6:00
amazing how many people can build stuff, think of something you can build, it's a great feeling to have actually to be able to have an idea on the internet of off day, which is the humongous landscape. And I can actually figure out a little bit how to make it happen. And it also creates empathy, a feel for Oh, Google YouTube, that feels hard to it is not easy to do those gigantic website. And it creates a little bit of empathy and sympathy for people that actually actually are building stuff on the internet. But it would be interesting, like any society to actually, you know, increase the level of people being able to just build stuff on their own. I think this is a great thing. So whether it's actually wood woods, or with internet bits and bytes, regardless, the act of creating epic, it's very powerful.

Tim Bourguignon 6:49
It doesn't need it doesn't need Apple if you're listening. Please do. Did you remember what what what kept you motivated in going through this this Linux Slackware and really figuring out this game, standing what you're supposed to do, and not just quitting after after a couple of days and say, Well, screw that I'm going back.

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 7:07
It's for me was a mental chat, it was just a discovery phase of things could happen. You know, things were hard, very arcane, esoteric error messages was very, you cannot go on Stack Overflow to figure some error message out you actually have to basically stumble upon yourself and really like facing binding some drivers because your graphic cards is the wrong one. Lo and behold, you had the wrong graphics card with Slackware something that was horrible basically had to buy a brand new one there's nothing else we can do this no driver it's about kernel impossible. Many of these frustrated frustration but it's a discover it's a journey that it is a mental challenge just to go through education and school came just naturally easy for me kind of like yeah, it's it's boring a little bit and that is a bit of a an outlet to just discover and of course, then it's the mouth all those pre internet or internet ish, like the ice net right, McGill University was connected to other universities out there using like, and then just like wait a minute, I can actually connect to something else that was just been that. That was of course it was the bulletin board system right in terms of just calling to other phone numbers. And that was pretty cool and amazing. However, just the act of dialing up into a nother University from that university I can go to another university that was just this world's open up those these are cheap protocols go for all of that fun stuff. That was that was that none of this concern? This is where you feel so small, right? You feel like oh, wait a minute, this this is how everything gets connected. And for me it was just, I mean, I barely slept I really, really barely slept ever up until I was maybe 30 years old. I really really had a very short amount of sleep. Now I value sleep now.

Tim Bourguignon 9:05
Do you remember when when the interest became all clicked in your mind to say okay, this is going to become my life and not just something I'm passionate about and this this curious puzzle.

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 10:02
Well, no. So that's the weird thing. So young people out there don't follow my exact path, just just get the spirit of it the I never had that moment that this is will become my life. It was basically all the way through let's say high school fairly successful at school, everything is fine. I'm doing a lot of my own development out there in the world pre internet to basically the, the, the first early stage of the internet. And basically I was I was using the skills just to try to build stuff sometimes, quote unquote, none of the good side of the internet and then my first basically education failure happened I failed a French class just in like pre college. First ever in my life, and that I could not actually fathom that actually I failed the class I dropped out I literally dropped out of school a bunch of stuff happening in my also personal life and my parents were not basically I abandoned everything stars stellar student, I was going in, in Axwell. Yeah, I don't even know what's an English actuary. Things with Matt there that insurance company used to actually forecast what's happening with your pension and how much you should pay insurance, the predecessor of what we would call today, data scientists, my path was in math, my path was there it was, I knew that I was going in there, it never dawned on me, I would actually have a career to computers, then I literally quit school, dropped out decided that what I probably going to be a professional skateboarder. Lo and behold, until you realize, yeah, and I mean, I was skateboarding, of course heavily was sponsored all of that fun stuff. You know, free board, free shoes, freeze everything. However, you realize really rapidly that, you know, being in Montreal, where you know, nine months out of the year, it's actually not skateboarding season versus California, you do not have the same skills, or the same wants in terms of building a career. And then I ended up 20 odd years old with no education, no ambition to actually go back to school whatsoever. And I'm trying to find jobs that listen, I can actually develop and code stuff. I know Excel, like classic office 97. I know this, no one wants to hire me, I have no portfolio because all the things I've built that can't really show it was in a different space of the internet, let's say, can't show my portfolio can't show anything I've done can't find a job, did a few Excel gig here and there. And some banks that's contracts here and there. They asked me to do data entry, I basically just use instead just Visual Basic to just automate the whole data entry thing I've done in three hours, things are shifting in three weeks. And they're like, well, we can't pay you all this, could you go file some HR records in the big vault, like paper filing, so I was really miserable. And then I decided that you know what I will, I'll be a truck driver. So in 1998, I would say 97 and decide I'll be a truck driver. You know what, because I can still continue to learn. I'll go and deliver things in California or in Mexico or whatnot. And then you know, and I can just continue to learn because that always been constant in my life. It's just continued to learn on any given topic. So hey, I'll be a truck driver. felt miserable. I joined a company be a truck driver. I was a truck driver in 99. I was basically the guy at midnight in 1999, December 31, who was in a tape backup vault that had that held all the tape backup of the Montreal region of companies. And basically, we were waiting for y2k to hit. And I was on call in that vault waiting for companies to call because everything broke and they need their tape backup. And of course, nothing happens at all. So this is where all right, nothing happened. And I continued to be a truck driver and little, little apprentices not just a truck driver, I was a rush driver that was special. I was getting 85 cents an hour or more because I was the guy that if a company that tape backup, I had an hour to bring down a tape backup. It was a rush driver that warranted me 85 cents and extra an hour which was I felt like king of the world. And then basically I started going out with my boss's ex girlfriend and that did not bode well in the work environment. But she's my wife today. So it actually panned out. So like, all good. It was a good story at the end of the day, that did not pan well and then is this is where my actual real technology career started. In 2001, I would say is when I had to quit that job as a rush driver and because work environment was horrible, and then I just joined the first company I even like sent the resume to bail simpatico, so now Canada In Canada telco and I did not even know what your job was. But then lo and behold after six weeks of training On on me that this is technical support for high speed internet. I'm an introvert. Like, I am a classic introvert, I've not really, especially back then I did not just pew, I didn't like talking at all, period. And then I just joined a company as a technical support agent. And then this is where I, you know, do the training and figure out, you know, it doesn't hurt to just go through it. And then I decided that while I was doing my first few weeks on the phone, and I saw the tools, we had a disposal, and we had this this troubleshooting like intranet that we use to give you information for, for for technical support specialists, you know, how do you troubleshoot this and you know, power cycled the modem, reset the modem, and all of this, can you enter username, password, all of that super shitty, right? So I decided, while I was on the phone, I will build a new one, I will build a better version of this right for my peers, for my colleague to use a better version. So you don't have to basically switch pain Switch Windows insert distance, or that it was all information in one place. And this is where I got a call into the office of the technology manager of the call center, and basically told me that I'm not allowed to build new tools. And I'm not allowed to basically entice my colleague to use something other than the official support it to like, Oh, and this is where I said, you know, what, I tried to use the skill I've been building for the last decade. But lo and behold, the world does not want me to do any of this. Basically, I was completely fed up with life. But that same technology manager came back to me two weeks later. And he basically said, however, you seem to have something special, would you accept that position with me in the call center Technology Group, and work with me on this, that gentleman SAVs really have no problem saying his name is the individual, that person that basically changed the entire course of my trajectory. I owe him every I still talk to him as we still have supper, two or three times a year. I owe him everything I tell him, he is extremely humble. Like he has a heck of a story on his phone. It's like Johnny's bananas. But that gentleman it was I owe him everything. Because he saw some things like cool, he's pretty smart dude. And he's the one to convince me that no one understand your brain, by the way, no one understand what you're thinking. And no one can read what you are thinking. Therefore, I am going to take it upon myself to get you into the leadership training of Bell Canada. Listen, listen, I and this is where I decided to take basically all the approaches that were given to me, I stumbled into it, learn how to do meetings and interviews and things like that. And that basically is the beginning of my, the actual career. And from there on a plethora of mistakes and failures and great successes after that for about 2021 years after that.

Tim Bourguignon 18:07
That is an awesome

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 18:12
follow his back kid, go to school.

Tim Bourguignon 18:15
I mean, you ended up Alright, so the outcome is fine. It isn't needed. There's a need. And then for the introverted you were you became pretty eloquent and unable to really talk about yourself. Oh, well, so really, whether this was a leadership training, that that,

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 18:30
that it was, it was the I don't know, if you really talk is still still on a why? Why did he throw me into this, like, there was a special name, young leaders have felt like there was a weird name to it. And this guy ended up a year later, like supervising a team of 15 people doing what we'll call technical accuracy. So listening to calls of technical support agent and grading them on their accuracy. And I was helping him on KPIs and a math number I can read I can understand numbers and basically kind of redo all the KPIs and the metrics of a call center. This is where I learned no idea why he threw me in this I learned a boatload because this is I felt myself this is it this is you want to do something now grab on to this, you've always been great at school, this seems to be a topic you would like and enjoy, just latch on to it. And of course, when you have an interest in this subject, and you feel that it's almost like Survivor Mode, you do everything you can to actually make it happen because up until then I was literally living in my car and doing nothing I was I was I was just a bum right so I decided like this is that's normal.

Tim Bourguignon 19:42
Okay, maybe in parallel to this whole time this whole build up that you just described, where was the tech during this buildup on the side while you were still training on the side doing stuff on your own exploring cetera and still not having it as an idea? Hey, this could be

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 19:59
correct. Cool. Right, I was still, I still had my Linux desktop multiple ones I was still running now at that time, various different type flavors of Linux. Mint is explosion of distribution of Linux and whatnot, did a lot of coding back in the days and BBs world in terms of plugins and modules. Then I switched my attention to like FTP daemons and FTP servers and FTP clients and things like that, without ever Well, I tried in my, in my, in my, my excuses, like, I tried to get a job after with this, but no, I couldn't really show anything I've done. And back in the day, having a degree was somewhat, and if I didn't do it, well, I applied to like banks and companies that were actually legitimate. Of course, in 1997, they were looking for the classic, you know, bachelor degree in something or at least a collegial type degree that would give a hint or a signal to the person reviewing the resume that yeah, okay, let's actually meet this individual. Now, it actually never happened. But I didn't really in hindsight, I can actually apply to the right area with the right companies. But still fairly early on Montreal. 1997 96 was not the hotbed of technology companies anyway. It's not like I had at my disposal a lot of things to do. So I Yeah, but I've still all this time, I was still going strong in that begin to development, technology, understanding tech, all of that fun stuff.

Tim Bourguignon 21:29
Okay, this at some point, flip, or did you approach it in? Because you're now obviously, back really into into tech and software development? Maybe by the from the backdoor, but we'll get to that, at what point did you did you come back to it? And how did you come back to it?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 21:45
I forced it. So I spent three years in call center world at Bell Canada. Then I joined TELUS again in the call center world. So long story short, long story short is TELUS, which is the west of like the West Coast, Canada, in Canada, we're coming to Montreal, to open a what they call it a flagship call center. And basically, we were trying to poach a bunch of people left, right and center. And basically, I decided, You know what, let me see what they have what kind of jobs available and I saw this job Operations Manager. I've never done it in my life, right? Never done this. But you know, I'll apply for it. The HR people, Team lady forgot her name, call me back.

It was 5:30
pm. I remember it was raining, it was waiting for my dear wife, not sure if was much it was not my work back then my girlfriend back then waiting for her to finish her shifts at a biotech company that she was working. She called me up and she said, Well, I'm sorry, JP, but you know, operation manager, you're not qualified and whatnot. However, we do have like call center specialist jobs, that you can grow into it and eventually be a lead and be at this and that. I didn't let go. I basically said, no, no, no, you're making a mistake, I can do this job because of ABC. I don't know what got into me. But it was extremely convincing. That lady It was late for her. And she agreed to basically let me pursue the process and meet one of the director from TELUS in the west coast. But before that, I need to do some tests to a psychometric and in test and in basket tests, all of these right? You know, six hours worth of tests. I'll do it, let's make it happen. Right. And at the end of the day, what happened is I scored like the top 1% of Canadian management, country steps. And basically, I met this this individual Scott surgenor at EA and Manuel, these two awesome individual, and basically, they hired me as employee number one of the new center as Operations Manager. And the first 18 months of my journey at TELUS they were not able to find a general manager. So here I am, for 18 months, I have what $12 million in optics of managing 350 seat call center in Montreal, building the opening it launching it recruiting hiring, of course, I had a bunch of other folks with me never done this in my life. But because I had the manager title at TELUS I, I had access to the entire course library of every subject in the world, from a company out west New Brunswick, all basic online curriculum of any subject. So I decided myself, well, this is it. Again, don't sleep JP just read everything. I did my PMP certification. I did everything on tech on psychology, philosophy, any topic that actually have to do with management and business. I just read did sort of find myself on that platform and it had everything so did this for about 18 months. Then I decide and then a general manager finally arrives and that's another story of like my first being packaged out I did not know anything about being packaged out what does that mean? They're giving me money to leave. This is awesome. This is actually pretty darn cool. Oh, can I get back into that more often this is good. But this is when I realized I don't want to be in call center anymore. How can I force it force its forces. And this is where when I joined zero knowledge would became radio points I joined. Basically, I had the telco experience, and they were gearing up for security software for a solution for telcos. And so I basically managed to squeeze myself in because of my telco knowledge. But then rapidly gravitated back to basics, when somebody quit as a solution development manager, basically grabbed this a portion into just squeezed my my way back into it now managing a team of developers. And that was like, I've done this. I like full circle from 11 years old to now it took me more or less like 15 years to do this journey. But now I'm sitting and managing a group of 12 developers building awesome solution for radio point. And that's how it squeezed my way back. But it wasn't my fridge, like get out of call center was like one of those goals of do not I did not want to just continue it's a tough world is rough. It is it is a grinding environment, the call center world. So I want to, you know, how do I get out of this? And that was my that's how I got into my real, like, managing technology. I'm gonna say, because I was managing technology with call center with managing the developers and would not start like real point 2000. I don't remember six, five, I don't know 678? I don't know something like that.

Tim Bourguignon 26:30
That is awesome. But how did it feel in finally, I mean, you were in a pretty, pretty good place from what you described, you say you were there from full learning. And so while you were truck driving, you were there for learning. In LSU, were there for allowing cetera. So it turns out, right. But now you were not there, just for the learning. But you had finally developers with you. How did it feel going into this transition in in having this field finally there?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 26:57
Tim completed faster. Right there, you finally so it was a project manager at the beginning just to launch a few releases of radio points security software. In fact, at Bell Canada was my first one, and then that alliance, which was Belconnen Atlantic, but then I the social developer manager left and then this is where you know, I can do it, I can do it convince basically this awesome that Ned Zim and Carlos, the two leaders, radio point, convinced them that I could actually do it, and they won't regret it. And then I jump into it and didn't realize that I've never developed a line of code professionally in my life. I literally have never actually done this. And then you're in front of 12 and zero knowledge back in those days. That's the cream of the crop of Montreal. This is it. This is the top of the top to get there is grueling, it's hard. It's mythical. Here I am. This Bozo coming from call center world is now managing this group of 12. And I had to flip my brain in terms of basically you have to fake it until you actually make it and you feel to see the traction when you have an action. And as a reaction from the team and word matters and action matters. You start to build this credibility with yourself and forget the rest of the world like with yourself. Yeah, this is where I learned about like, Okay, how do I treat myself better me, me me like because I cannot just ask other people to listen to me if I don't even have out my own confidence in myself. So, you know, had to work a lot on that on that side. But it helped that it was small enough. Fortunately, enough time unfortunately, that heroes were still needed. Saving a big project, I could step in, in chaos, that's where I strive I could step in and chaos, build a humongous demo into into a hotel room the night before to convince Verizon that that was freaking buy that things like that made my name and allow me to actually navigate this world again, without actually have the real credential of writing professional lines of code. Still never done it. So but it gave me the credibility over the rest of the company and the rest of the executive and the leadership teams and whatnot. Oh, that dudes special don't mess with them. Which was at hindsight, a mistake because okay, because that guy is special. The guy's a hero with the guys. Like he can solve anything. Let's actually throw more people and then this is how I grew from a manager to senior manager to a director and then like director of solution architecture. My goodness, what a title solution architect. I still to this day, like the most ultimate title in my entire solution architect, I can architect any solution, and I'm the director of this banana like this is, you know, 40 people like it but I still had the hero syndrome to be honest with Do I still just not managed the system manage the organization, I still just looking for the next place, I could be the lone hero. After eight years, that real point is where I became probably one of the most despicable and horrible employee. I was not managing the solution architecture group, or the solution development group, I was just basically finding ways for me to, you know, extract things that are beautiful out of my brain, very selfish. And that's why, you know, they package me up, it was, and that was another great moment. I love them too. But I still talk often to like Warren and Carlos and amnat, these guys from radio point like, which like, Thank you, RJ. Fleet, thank you for having packaged me out and kicked me in the ass. Because I was pretty bad. I was I was pretty, I was not engaged. I was not actually accepting the mission, I was accepting the pivot of the company, I was not accepting anything other than, can I satisfy my thirst for just solving complex problems. Me myself, not the team me. That's horrible. Packaged me out. And that was that was but that was the first element, my first part of that journey in terms of managing teams, which I didn't really do, but built some great relationships, a lot of those folks still work together. Good friends of mine, I still work with some of these folks. We had fun. We had to had fun that life is not that serious.

Tim Bourguignon 31:27
When we managed to make it this way, that's that's when the fun starts. Absolutely. I'd love to bring a twist on her that you're now you went to a director of technology VP of engineering cetera. So how would you have managed yourself? Now that you, you know, you had the CEO, you would have had this hero in your team, but yourself from from from 10 years ago? How would you lead that person?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 31:49
So it's tough love? Tough. That's tough love, oh, it's removing the shiny objects from the attention of a hero. I mean, and again, you need the want of the individual right? I also have example, like an incident management and other people that I've worked with where like, that individual is awesome, because always resolve the incident. Know what the job should be to avoid the incident. First and foremost, that's, that's where stop glorifying that, let's actually try to figure out how do we scale this from an organization standpoint, from a systems that that's what needs to be fixed, it's the same thing. But sometimes it's hard because this is like short term gain. Real points or knowledge gained a lot from me trying to save everything right and solving like going with the sales team and actually figure out how we're going to sell this fandangled solution to like another yet another telco or Dell or things like that, there was value for the company. So it's kind of like wait, but when you look long term unscalable bottleneck it, those things can't work. So if I was to manage my myself back in the days would be to actually take a short term hit, how do you actually do the same thing, but as a as a team as a system, so we can replicate so if people leave, the system can lead to turn out great solution, they're actually probably much better. Just this long guy in his hotel room, just at the end of the day, doing some photoshopping mock up plus some code to just try to fit things together to fake a product that's just doesn't scale that doesn't work. However, it works in certain certain parts of any given startup, you kind of have to have that mentality that Fuck it. Let's just do it. Let's grind it out. Let's be dirty. Radio point was not at that stage. I kind of missed the boat of Wait a minute, we're no longer a really small company. We're kind of growing but I've missed I've missed the call of that one. And it was still trying to act and at one point I needed someone slapped me silly Well, six months before they slapped me silly and say JP that's not like that's not working. And you know, this is your young fish she think you're the top of the world whatever. I accepted my package and what's get my second package

Tim Bourguignon 34:04
I hear you Yeah, I'm not sure I'm not sure it's it's what I've seen so far. I mean, when you when you have an element like this, somebody who's saving the day the whole time slapping them in the face and trying to appeal to a professionalism and say well, you know better and and help them see this often comes at a short and medium term cost of them being demotivated them not finding the north and not helping anymore. And that can really backfire. And so you have to you have to to navigate this, this this problem of if you don't see anything if you don't slap them in the face, you're basically validating what they're doing. And it's your name that's now stamped on that saying well you said okay, and if you do you miss your risk losing this person or losing their their momentum, which can kill the company. How do you deal with this?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 34:56
If you have to hand hold the purse at the end of the day That problem is not that individuals problem or even that was my problem. It was a company problem. It was about my direct or VP problem as well. Technically speaking, what I would have needed and what I would would try to provide nowadays is All right, awesome skill, awesome knowledge, awesome competency. This is freaking amazing. However, unscalable bottleneck, no one understand. No one else can do what you do. I would basically get myself into the same problem space as that individual lets you and I, let's figure out how do we actually get this to everyone? And in like, get an interesting new angle to it that the problem no longer is? How do I save this? But how do I now make other people save it? And that's going to be our, your mission? Our mission? Let's use my voice, do you need some time me to come in and just drop the hammer? I'll do that. How do we how do we figure out how do we actually make sure we percolate all this great freaking awesome competency and sometimes just behavior and attitude? And show people? How do you go from a solo just senior engineer to a principal engineer to everybody aspire to an influence just by action? That's the big gabot Sometime it just, it is my as a leader, it is also my prop my journey to actually figure this out. And people feel typically that's like, alright, I cannot say this. No, no, we can still do it. Let's invite somebody else in that solution. Let's invite Joe or Cindy, Cindy, come in, come in. How do we do this? And now your three people. Oh, oh, you know what great team to this, this ad design team to this a couple of folks over there. And then lo and behold, still with that same drive. But you do these little into then lo and behold, a year later you had this individual that our principal engineer is actually influencing people are asking him the right thing at the right time. And you know what he's sleeping at night. If he doesn't hold the pager doesn't work. And he's actually fine because there's now 100 People who can actually behave like this individual. That's the aspiration that however time is an issue takes a lot of time. It's maintenance observation, you need to observe, observe, observe and actually course correct sometime once in a while. And of course, hold the line with the rest of the company. Can I have access to Cindy because Cindy is going to save this. Whoa, I know. That's how we used to do it. I'll introduce myself into in the process now. It's going to be Cynthia JP. And that is also a making sure that we are so we're creating that umbrella on top of that what we're trying to change, if not, it's gonna continue, you're gonna have salespeople calling Cindy and a half support people calling, you have to break these lines to make sure the system evolve, as well as the human and the need, but the system is greater. That was that's the big thing that needs to happen. And it could have happened, but I can push. So we're busy. We're busy building businesses. We're busy, we're stressed, we're pressured. I will never hold it against any of my previous leaders as like, well, they kind of like we all do our best at the right at any given time to do we think we're doing our best.

Tim Bourguignon 38:07
I'm sure we are. If we start thinking if we don't we're not if we're questioning that others are doing their best to have a slippery slope. This this being packaged out to that Oh, was it this week of code that made you the person you are now? Oh, yeah.

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 38:21
Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that was my wake up call than I needed. I was not I would say at hindsight, not a great human being but for like, as a family I had kids at this point where my wife was working way too hard. I was not being a great employee. Overall, when you look at performance dimension, probably like, you know, c minus two D on pretty much on a lot of front health wise and whatnot like things. You know what? Not the best. That was a great wake up call. So how did you get on that? Took a few months of introspecting I owe everything to my I mean, my wife is the one that actually is the rock. I mean, this is where you go from. I am the rock I'm the hotshot and this too, I'm not the I actually what I do is irrelevant. It's not important. What's important. Is relationship with people. How do you actually make sure other people are growing? How do you make sure you actually building a Zen a peaceful nest at home harmony, harmony, harmony? I owe everything to my wife I do at that period where like she and we decided like, you know what? She's gonna hold down the fort at home. I will focus on the career and how do I move forward from now on, like people like they see me now Senior VP at Circle CI, right? Half of it is like I could do this because I have people at home as my kids are freaking amazing. They don't ask for too much and actually very low maintenance. I'm a beautiful way to also put a hole in their own career to just try to focus as much as attend as possible on just all the stuff that makes our life hard. Picking up kids like daycare, this paying bills going to the dentist, all of this that we try to juggle, like, No, I have a meeting at 8pm with like a West Coast client, like oh, okay, well, it takes way more than an individual to actually build anyone's career. So that that was the spot that you know, pretty hard discussion, pretty hard conversation, not an easy path, let me tell you, but that year, just following me being packaged out of renal point was kind of like extremely hard personally. But what came out of this is a kind of like, you know, what, let me try to be, you know, servant leader like this that buzzword like, like, really like feeling it. And this is where he did at Shutterstock. And this is where let's build some beautiful systems of humans. Tech is easy. It's building those system of humans as hard. Let's actually build some beautiful Tech uses a beautiful system of human. This is where everything started to completely unblock and unlock is when you start to rely not even on any of your skills whatsoever. In terms like technical skills, you can have opinion, that's cute and adorable, but actually be more of the system builder. And this is where he completely flipped build this Shutterstock center from zero to 100 engineers in Montreal for three, three and a half years over there. Flip myself to lightspeed grew much bigger challenge of engineering culture, there's no doubt over there, you know, led the product and technology group over there post IPO pre IPO to post IPO, 15 acquisition, m&a, all of this is like without me solutioning anything other than org problem? Wow, there's no other thing. And I chose myself and I had my own sandbox of my own playground, right building yourself like in like an r&d lab or like things are more on the forward looking space to allow me to play. If I have that I'll build any system, right? So did this whole thing at lightspeed and then then decide to join circle CI, which is just probably same space, that when Lightspeed was in 2018, and 2017, terms of growth, and where they are in their journey, so like, maybe try to do it again. But this time for a Silicon Valley company. I'm from Montreal, like the you have all these, this thing you think of is like that, for me, awesome. And this is why and this is how I joined circle CI, which is probably the most awesome company ever, in terms of culture, in terms of just being nice, and just allowing people to be safe and just the build its build its buildings create momentum, and removing this, this the ego and the politics and whatnot. And that's where I learned that way. There's another way of doing business. I always been on the kind side of things but you know what, the world is pretty harsh. It is pretty tough out there. There's a lot of yelling, and, and I'm going to elbow you and elbow this and fuck off this and fuck you this, like, whoa, that's not for me. But then circle CI creators create this awesome environment that allows me at least to just be free and fly. And this is awesome. So that's been like the last the last I would say 678 years of my of my journey,

Tim Bourguignon 43:09
and need some seems to be the right place for you. You have a big smile on your face. Maybe that's the that's that's the advice or the tip I'm searching for. How would you approach this this building systems of people there? I've seen I've seen very mathematical approaches. I've seen very systems approach in terms of software systems approach. I've seen more of a psychological approach. What is your SOS?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 43:34
It's all about I feel like this is where it's hard. There's a mix of everything you just said there's a mix of using the right tool in the right context and following. Still your instinct. Let me explain. I have direct reports, my direct reports have direct reports and their direct reports have direct reports and so on and so forth. Right? This is this whole cascade of hierarchy that we live in today in corporate America. Nothing wrong with it, it actually needs to work in some ways because sometimes it's hard to communicate up to 150 engineering, the org has about 350 and all product and engineering has a lot of folks right all remote. But I think these links between me and my direct report and their direct report and then there needs to be bond there needs to be trust and confidence and be aware of people's traits attributes, weaknesses strengths at all level. Right my VPS I know I cannot ask some I cannot be shocked and appalled with one of my VP is not able to behave in a certain way. Because that's what that's who they are. I cannot ask them to just change everyone everything they are because it will also have ripple effect on the good things that they're doing. There's a reason if there's no there's no perfect design of a human being and exist. There's like cool, great at this suck at that. Let's be aware of this. How do we compensate for weaknesses of focus or people or the lack of interest I would say because it's a weakness because of its lack of interest. I could probably be a good carpenter if I had any interest I mean, I don't I suck at it like it's like but I mean if I had interest maybe I would be better but it's the same thing that's how do you build not against technical hard skill? That is knowledge that that is somewhat easier to detect that oh, your cloud infrastructure skills like you I think we need to level up a little bit on this but more of the behavioral side of the management and the leadership style is like okay, you tend to not communicate well. Oh, perfect. Let me jump in and actually help you communicate certain hairy topic. Oh, you tend to do you tend to take too much on yourself cool. Let me actually like once in a week right let me actually jump in and actually no actually delegate on your behalf some stuff and you'll hurt but this is where I believe that in terms of building ergonomics of human is being aware of other people around you what they are here to do. You know, I always use the analogy of Dennis Rodman NBA basketball, the bulls and of course the pistols before Dennis Rodman, he only did one thing rebounds only did rebounds six championship five championship or played for the bullet Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, but he had is rolled and you know what, Michael Jordan, or Phil Jackson, the coach never asked Dennis Rodman, could you score points, MJ was doing that Scottie Pippen was doing that plus assists plus rebound. Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson would only ask one thing, could you be the best rebounder in the world, right. And we tend to just shy away from this, we tend to have this think of human as robots that can do everything. If you're a leader in tech, that means you're great at insert from DevOps, to Ci, CD to process to engineering practices to API micro service, like, you get the gamut of thing because you are a VP of engineering. That's not how it works. And the minute you actually realize that, you know, what my VP of engineering that I have right now in that seat, freaking amazing. At cloud platform, he is amazing. Thank you very much for that. However, who is not too good with the actual enduring practice PRs and pull requests and merge and cross team collaboration, not that great, awesome. Next Director We bring in, we ensure that that skill that allows people to be less stress can breathe, okay, I even though I suck at this, I know I need to, to actually manage it. I don't need to exert my brain on that, because I just hired somebody who can do it. The minute we understand all of these things, and that is very superficial and very on the easy path. Because there's probably 16 layer deep, we can go there. That's how we can actually start having people who can breathe and they're not just surviving. I don't want folks to survive. Just breathe, breathe, and just start flying a little bit. Don't be hunkered down because I suck at this, but I need to deliver on this. That's a horrible, dreadful moment. And that's what we need to realize.

Tim Bourguignon 48:14
This is an awesome answer. Thank you very, very much. I hope this aligns perfectly well I think so. Very, very cool. So it's been it's been a blast listening to your story. Thank you very much

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 48:25
for that. Absolutely. It was definitely a pleasure to see where would

Tim Bourguignon 48:29
be the best place to continue this discussion with you.

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 48:32
It LinkedIn is where I spend most of my updates and quickie posts and breakfasts are when these numbers six ideas are always found on LinkedIn. I'm not that big on any other social platform that LinkedIn. I'm 46 years old, getting

Tim Bourguignon 48:49
good enough. Good enough. Anything else you want to plug in before we call it today?

Jean-Philippe LeBlanc 48:53
No shout out to the entire circle CI crew. This we're doing fantastic. Carry on. It is awesome. We're having a blast over there. And of course I couldn't. I couldn't be where I am without what we call the collective. All the people that I've worked with and all we work with. We still work together today, you'd 15 years later. Huge shout out to all of you, Ira when as a piece of this journey. And hopefully I also have a piece and their own journey. So always being a blessing to work with all these fine, folks.

Tim Bourguignon 49:21
fantastic to hear. Firstly, thank you very, very much. A pleasure. And this has been another episode of developer's journey with each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week. Takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me He continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping the future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep Ti n o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info